Reviews (20 points)
By examining reviews from January through December 2012, this category is weighted heavily to reflect the average star ratings and performance scores from a given company’s notebooks. Extra points are offered for Editors’ Choice Award-winning machines.
We look at a company’s overall aesthetics for these 15 points, also taking into account build quality, use of color, relative size and weight versus competing machines and accessible ports.
How well a user can interact with a laptop is absolutely essential in the complicated equation of what makes a good system. We award these points based on keyboard travel, flex and responsiveness. Touchpads should offer easy navigation, easy-to-use buttons and fluid gesture support. We also paid close attention to Windows 8 gestures.
A brand is only as good as the technical support it offers. For this reason, each brand’s performance on our annual Tech Support Showdown is worth 15 percent of its final grade.
If you don’t like the display quality on a machine, you’re likely going to return it. We balance that with the screen brightness, viewing angles, resolution and touch responsiveness (in those systems that support this input). We also take a close look at the audio quality offered by the speakers and the company’s use of specialized software and hardware to deliver the best sound. These points are awarded based on a brand’s overall ability to deliver quality sound and pleasing displays across all of its systems.
It’s not just about affordability in this category. It’s about whether the company’s systems offer better features and performance than the competition for the money across multiple price bands. We also consider a brand’s retail presence and whether its notebooks are available and customizable online.
Receiving added weight this year, for these points we looked for the companies who excelled at forward-thinking features and technologies and how well they’re executed. What new innovations did a brand first adopt or pioneer? And how well did they do?
For this category, we evaluate the branded utilities and third-party software that each company includes with its laptops. How useful and unique — or annoying — are the preloaded options?
Best and Worst Notebook Brands 2013